Analysis of A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Critical Analysis of A Tale of Two Cities

1. Table of Contents

2. Book Summary

3. Plot of A Tale of Two Cities

4. Role and Character Analysis of all characters in A Tale of Two Cities

5. Analysis of all THEMES of A TALE OF TWO CITIES

6. The Use of Symbols in ‘A Tale of Two Cities

Book Summary

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Charles Dickens writes in the opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities as he paints a picture of life in England and France. The year is late 1775, and Jarvis Lorry travels from London to Paris on a secret mission for his employer, Tellson’s Bank. Joining him on his journey is Lucie Manette, a 17-year-old woman who is stunned to learn that her father, Doctor Alexandre Manette, is alive and has recently been released after having been secretly imprisoned in Paris for 18 years.
When Mr. Lorry and Lucie arrive in Paris, they find the Doctor’s former servant, Ernest Defarge, caring for him. Defarge now runs a wine-shop with his wife in the poverty-stricken quarter of Saint Antoine. Defarge takes Mr. Lorry and Lucie to the garret room where he is keeping Doctor Manette, warning them that the Doctor’s years in prison have greatly changed him. Thin and pale, Doctor Manette sits at a shoemaker’s bench intently making shoes. He barely responds to questions from Defarge and Mr. Lorry, but when Lucie approaches him, he remembers his wife and begins to weep. Lucie comforts him, and that night Mr. Lorry and Lucie take him to England.
Five years later, the porter for Tellson’s Bank, Jerry Cruncher, takes a message to Mr. Lorry who is at a courthouse. Mr. Lorry has been called as a witness for the trial of Charles Darnay, a Frenchman accused of being a spy for France and the United States. Also at the trial are Doctor Manette and Lucie, who are witnesses for the prosecution. Doctor Manette has fully recovered and has formed a close bond with his daughter.
If found guilty of treason, Darnay will suffer a gruesome death, and the testimony of an acquaintance, John Barsad, and a former servant, Roger Cly, seems sure to result in a guilty verdict. Questions from Darnay’s attorney, Mr. Stryver, indicate that Cly and Barsad are the real spies, but the turning point in the trial occurs when
Sydney Carton, Stryver’s assistant, points out that Carton and Darnay look alike enough to be doubles. This revelation throws into doubt a positive identification of Darnay as the person seen passing secrets, and the court acquits Darnay.
After the trial, Darnay, Carton, and Stryver begin spending time at the Manette home, obviously attracted to Lucie’s beauty and kind nature. Stryver decides to propose to her, but is dissuaded by Mr. Lorry. Carton confesses his love to Lucie, but does not propose, knowing that his drunken and apathetic way of life is not worthy of her. However, he vows that he would gladly give his life to save a life she loved, and Lucie is moved by his sincerity and devotion. Eventually, it is Darnay whose love Lucie returns, and the two marry with Doctor Manette’s uneasy blessing. While the couple is on their honeymoon, the Doctor suffers a nine-day relapse of his mental incapacity and believes he is making shoes in prison again.

Meanwhile, the situation in France grows worse. Signs of unrest become evident when Darnay’s cruel and unfeeling uncle, the Marquis St. Evrémonde, is murdered in his bed after running down a child with his carriage in the Paris streets. Although Darnay inherits the title and the estate, he has renounced all ties to his brutal family and works instead in England as a tutor of French language and literature.
The revolution erupts with full force in July 1789 with the storming of the Bastille. The Defarges are at the center of the revolutionary movement and lead the people in a wave of violence and destruction.By 1792, the revolutionaries have taken control of France and are imprisoning and killing anyone they view as an enemy of the state. Darnay receives a letter from the Evrémonde steward, who has been captured and who begs Darnay to come to France to save him. Feeling a sense of duty to his servant and not fully realizing the danger awaiting him, Darnay departs for France. Once he reaches Paris, though, revolutionaries take him to La Force prison “in secret,”with no way of contacting anyone and with little hope of a trial.
Doctor Manette, Lucie, and Lucie’s daughter soon arrive in Paris and join Mr. Lorry who is at Tellson’s Paris office. Doctor Manette’s status as a former prisoner of the Bastille gives him a heroic status with the revolutionaries and enables him to find out what has happened to his son-in-law. He uses his influence to get a trial for Darnay, and Doctor Manette’s powerful testimony at the trial frees his son-in-law. Hours after being reunited with his wife and daughter, however, the revolutionaries again arrest Darnay, based on the accusations of the Defarges.
The next day, Darnay is tried again. This time, the Defarges produce a letter written years earlier by Doctor Manette in prison condemning all Evrémondes for the murder of Madame Defarge’s family and for imprisoning the Doctor. Based on this evidence, the court sentences Darnay to death and Doctor Manette, devastated by what has happened, reverts to his prior state of dementia.
Unknown to the Manette and Darnay family, Sydney Carton has arrived in Paris and learns of Darnay’s fate. He also hears of a plot contrived to send Lucie and her daughter to the guillotine. Determined to save their lives, he enlists the help of a prison spy to enter the prison where the revolutionaries are holding Darnay. He enters Darnay’s cell, changes clothes with him, drugs him, and has Darnay taken out of the prison in his place. No one questions either man’s identity because of the similarities in their features. As Mr. Lorry shepherds Doctor Manette, Darnay, Lucie, and young Lucie out of France, Carton goes to the guillotine, strengthened and comforted by the knowledge that his sacrifice has saved the woman he loves and her family.

Plot of A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities is, in many ways, Doctor Manette’s story. The Doctor’s release from the Bastille begins the novel, and the mystery of his imprisonment creates tension throughout the book. The reading of his letter ultimately condemns Darnay to death, forcing Carton to sacrifice his life. Despite the Doctor’s centrality to the book, however, many people portray him as a weak, pitiful character, especially in theater or film productions of A Tale of Two Cities . Such a perception does the Doctor and the story a great disservice.
A close reading of the book reveals the Doctor to be one of its few complex characters. Throughout the course of the novel, he is seen as an aspiring young doctor, a prisoner who craves revenge and who descends into madness, and a man who fights to regain his mind, his family, and his profession. His life after prison is a continual struggle against the shadows of madness and despair that are his legacy from the Bastille. The love he has for his daughter helps him to overcome the darkness in his life, even giving him the strength to welcome the son of his enemy as a son-in-law. When his status as a Bastille prisoner becomes an asset at the end of the book, he regains the strength and confidence that characterized him before his imprisonment. When his bitter, angry letter surfaces, however, the past undermines his stability.
Through the Doctor, Dickens makes a statement regarding the nature of forgiveness and revenge. The Doctor’s ability to forgive brings him happiness in his daughter’s marriage and children. However, his past demand for revenge has the power to destroy his life and the lives of his family. Additionally, whereas revenge leads the Doctor to a state of dementia, forgiveness raises him to a level of intellectual vigor and emotional happiness. In showing these contrasting aspects of Doctor Manette’s character, Dickens emphasizes the concepts of the destructive power of revenge and the healing power of forgiveness

Role and Character Analysis of all characters in A Tale of Two Cities

Role and Character Analysis ofSYDNEY CARTON in A Tale of Two Cities


Sydney Carton’s a tough nut to crack. At twenty-five, he’s obviously brilliant: he manages to make one of the stupidest men in London, Mr. Stryver, into one of the most prominent lawyers of his time. He’s also rather good-looking… at least, we’re pretty sure he is. See, he looks exactly like Charles Darnay. And Darnay is definitely attractive. Which means Sydney can’t be all that right?
So, with looks and brains, Sydney should have the world at his feet… right? Well, not exactly. Orphaned at a young age, Sydney spent most of his youth writing homework for his classmates. He spends his adult years being the brains behind Stryver’s brawn. (Okay, Stryver’s not exactly brawny, but you get the picture.) Strangely enough, Sydney doesn’t exactly seem like the sort of scrawny kid who got his lunch money stolen every day.
So why does he settle for living other people’s lives? Ah, that’s a good question. In fact, it’s the question that’s troubled readers of A Tale of Two Cities for, well, centuries. Believe it or not, no one has come up with any good answers.
Sydney and the Existential Crises
Perhaps part of the reason that Sydney remains so impenetrable is that Dickens just doesn’t give us much to work with. Sydney’s unhappy because Sydney is convinced that he should be unhappy. It’s as simple as that.
The problem, of course, is that Sydney seems far too intelligent to wallow in his own masochism. That doesn’t seem to bother Dickens, however. Sydney may be given to reflection and introspection (after all, he does spend most of his nights wandering the streets of London), but he rarely says anything that would allow us to understand why he’s given himself
We don’t mean to say here that Sydney’s evil. He’s just trying to eat himself up inside. When he does explain his melancholy, it’s in cryptic phrases like these:

Role and Character Analysis ofDarnay in A Tale of Two Cities

Manette, later Darnay

Dickens describes Lucie as being beautiful physically and spiritually, and she possesses a gift for bringing out the best qualities of those around her. She is one of the lesser-developed characters in the novel, but she is “the golden thread”that binds many of the characters’ lives together. A reader can best judge Lucie by her actions and influences on other characters rather than by her dialogue, which tends to be melodramatic and full of stock sentimentality. Her dialogue aside, Dickens portrays her as a compassionate, virtuous woman who inspires great love and loyalty in the other characters. For example, Darnay, Carton, and Stryver all court her and envision their futures being made brighter with her as their wife. Additionally, both Mr. Lorry and Miss Pross, who are without families, love Lucie as if she were their daughter and do everything they can to keep her safe. Although Lucie is a flat character, she is an important one. She represents unconditional love and compassion, and Dickens uses her to demonstrate how powerful these qualities can be, even in the face of violence and hatred.

Role and Character Analysis ofCHARLES DARNAY in A Tale of Two Cities


Riches to Rags
Charles is the guy who’s got it all. Born a French nobleman, he decides to be the one aristocrat in France who has a conscience. He leaves his land (and his inheritance) in the dust, sets up shop as a lowly French tutor in London, and begins life over as Charles Darnay.
Despite his attempts to distance himself from the scandals and horrors of the French aristocracy, Charles can’t seem to keep himself out of trouble. The man gets into three (count ’em, three) court cases over the course of the novel. First, he’s tried as a traitor to the English crown. Then he’s tried as a traitor to the French Republic. (Actually, he’s tried as an aristocrat, but at the time, “aristocrat” and “traitor” were pretty synonymous.) As if that weren’t enough, he’s finally re-tried in France—on the same charges!
During in between all those trials, however, he manages to meet and marry Lucie Manette. He even moves into her father’s house in Soho. That’s when he feels obligated to let Doctor Manette in on his secret identity. Of course, Charles doesn’t know that Doctor Manette was falsely imprisoned by Charles’ father and uncle… perhaps it’s better for him that he remains in ignorance.
Nice Guys Finish First
That brings us to a rather interesting part of Charles’ character: even though he seems to be the hero of this little tale, he’s frequently not the man who forces any actions. Sydney Carton gets Charles out of his first trial; Doctor Manette uses his influence to free him in France. And, of course, Sydney changes places with Charles on the night before his execution. For a hero, Charles sure seems to let other people do most of his saving.
Most interestingly, Dickens doesn’t really spend much time developing Charles’ character. He’s a good guy. End of story. We do get a bit of moral reflection when Charles decides to head back to France, but it’s only about two paragraphs’ worth of Charles’ thoughts. He’s obliged to do his moral duty. Our narrator delves into his thoughts at this moment:
His latent uneasiness had been, that bad aims were being worked out in his own unhappy land by bad instruments, and that he who could not fail to know that he was better than they, was not there, trying to do something to stay bloodshed, and assert the claims of mercy and humanity. (2.24.63)
It’s an honorable set of reflections. Unfortunately, it’s also pretty much the only set of reflections we get from Charles. Most of the time, we’re in other characters’ heads. Even when Charles is arrested and spends several months in La Force, we rarely have an opportunity to experience his emotions.
Perhaps this novelistic distance makes Charles more closely aligned with Sydney Carton than we might first think. Sure, they look alike. But they’re also equally inaccessible to the reader. Charles remains somewhat unimaginable because he’s just so
good. Why, then, does Sydney remain a mystery? Perhaps goodness (or even heroism) can come in more than one form.

Role and Character Analysis ofMadame Defarge in A Tale of Two Cities

Madame Defarge
Possessing a remorseless bloodlust, Madame Defarge embodies the chaos of the French Revolution. The initial chapters of the novel find her sitting quietly and knitting in the wine shop. However, her apparent passivity belies her relentless thirst for vengeance. With her stitches, she secretly knits a register of the names of the revolution’s intended victims. As the revolution breaks into full force, Madame Defarge reveals her true viciousness. She turns on Lucie in particular, and, as violence sweeps Paris, she invades Lucie’s physical and psychological space. She effects this invasion first by committing the faces of Lucie and her family to memory, in order to add them to her mental “register” of those slated to die in the revolution. Later, she bursts into the young woman’s apartment in an attempt to catch Lucie mourning Darnay’s imminent execution.
Dickens notes that Madame Defarge’s hatefulness does not reflect any inherent flaw, but rather results from the oppression and personal tragedy that she has suffered at the hands of the aristocracy, specifically the Evrémondes, to whom Darnay is related by blood, and Lucie by marriage. However, the author refrains from justifying Madame Defarge’s policy of retributive justice. For just as the aristocracy’s oppression has made an oppressor of Madame Defarge herself, so will her oppression, in turn, make oppressors of her victims. Madame Defarge’s death by a bullet from her own gun—she dies in a scuffle with Miss Pross—symbolizes Dickens’s belief that the sort of vengeful attitude embodied by Madame Defarge ultimately proves a self-damning one.

Role and Character Analysis ofERNEST DEFARGE in A Tale of Two Cities


Power To The People
If we had to pick a “good” revolutionary, our money would be on Ernest Defarge. He’s disgusted at the excesses and cruelty of the aristocracy: when the Marquis runs over a small child, he throws Defarge a gold coin to get him to shut up. Defarge throws it right back in his face.
Coincidentally, this action mimics the actions of his former master, Doctor Manette. As a young boy, Ernest served Doctor Manette. He watched as Doctor Manette refused to accept bribe money from the Marquis; as a consequence, Doctor Manette was imprisoned. By the time our novel catches up with both characters, Ernest Defarge’s experiences as a youth have conditioned him to hate the aristocracy. The owner of a prominent wine shop in Saint Antoine (a poor area of Paris), Defarge heads up a group of patriots who go by the name of “Jacques.” As tensions between the peasants and the aristocrats reach a breaking point, Defarge heads the charge during the Storming of the Bastille.
Toward the end of the novel, however, Madame Defarge suggests that her husband is too weak to engage in true revolutionary activities. Sure, he uses a letter he found from Doctor Manette to imprison the doctor’s son-in law. His love for the doctor, however, won’t allow him to kill the doctor’s daughter and granddaughter. In other words, he’s too caught up in the suffering of individuals to pay attention to the big picture. When we read through that section of the novel, it’s pretty hard to agree with Madame Defarge. After all, the woman is described as a “tigress.” Compared to her, Defarge seems like the model of restraint.
Here’s the problem, though: we all know that effective wars generally result in some civilian casualties. That’s the dirty secret of mass violence, in general: in order for it to be effective, it has to be so horrific that people will do just about anything to make the violence stop. Madame Defarge may be unlikable. Her motives may be awful. But compared to her, her husband may not have what it takes to win a war.
Here’s the real question, then: in creating the character of Defarge, did Dickens create a sympathetic revolutionary, or just an ineffective one?

Role and Character Analysis ofJARVIS LORRY in A Tale of Two Cities


More Cuddly than a Teddy Bear
We’ve got to admit, we love Mr. Lorry. He’s everything that’s stodgy and old-school British, all wrapped into a little old man with spectacles. Mr. Lorry lives for his bank, Tellson’s. Well, at least
officially Mr. Lorry lives for his bank. Although he continually refers to himself as a “man of business,” he’s also just a big, soft-hearted teddy bear. He’s the one who first carries Lucie over to France to meet her long-imprisoned father. His concern for Doctor Manette and Lucie quickly blossoms into deep friendship. Skipping away from the dark corners of his office whenever he can, Mr. Lorry finds himself in a comfortable corner of the Manettes’s house in Soho, playing checkers with the doctor.
It’s pretty clear that our narrator is poking fun at Mr. Lorry when he describes the “businessman’s” concern for the integrity of his old, musty, dirty bank office. He does it so gently and lovingly, though, that we know it’s not a sharp satire. We’re laughing with Mr. Lorry. Okay, he doesn’t know that he’s laughing. But still, we’re not laughing at him in a mean way. (If you are, stop it. Right now.)
What are we laughing at? Well, for one thing, there’s Mr. Lorry’s insistence on referring to real-life problems as “hypothetical” situations. He’s a businessman, see. Businessmen don’t have to deal with personal affairs. That’s why he couldn’t really be emotionally invested in Doctor Manette’s mental health or Lucie’s fears about meeting her father for the first time. No, no. His concerns are all hypothetical. Of course, even the Manettes manage to see through the façade that Mr. Lorry constructs for himself. Mr. Lorry’s “hypothetical” situations often refer to issues that directly affect the family: Doctor Manette’s mental breakdown after Lucie’s wedding, for example, can be discussed by the two men because neither of them is really talking about Doctor Manette.
Of course, we’ve got to wonder why a banker gets to play such a key sympathetic role in the novel. Is he sympathetic despite his occupation or
because of it? In other words, could Dickens be lodging a not-so-subtle plug for British businesses into the heart of his novel?
It’s not likely, we admit. Dickens tends to be pretty critical of large corporations or governmental structures. Tellson’s Bank actually gets off pretty easily. At the very least, it does good work during the revolution… or does it? Is saving the French aristocracy’s money and valuables something we should be valuing? And if not, what does that say about our opinion of Mr. Lorry?

Role and Character Analysis ofMISS PROSS in A Tale of Two Cities


Don’t Cross Pross
Sporting wild red hair and a fierce countenance, Miss Pross seems ready to leap into battle for her “Ladybird” (that would be Lucie) at any time. Miss Pross takes care of Lucie while Doctor Manette is in prison; when he returns to England, she sets up shop in their home in Soho.
A good dose of light-hearted fun in a novel that quickly becomes very, very serious, Miss Pross never wavers in her devotion to Lucie, King, and Country. In fact we suspect that she’d even rank her allegiances in exactly that order. As she firmly states to Lucie:
“[…] the short and the long of it is, that I am a subject of His Most Gracious Majesty King George the Third”; Miss Pross curtseyed at the word, “and as such, my maxim is, Confound their politics, Frustrate their knavish tricks, On him our hopes we fix, God save the King!” (3.7.84)
Even the uproar of the revolution can’t shake Miss Pross’s devotion. When Lucie flees with her family at the end of the novel, Miss Pross becomes the woman who meets up with Madame Defarge in her stead. We suspect that this is a deliberate move: Dickens emphasizes time and again the ways that Miss Pross has devoted her entire life to Lucie. It’s fitting, then, that she should serve as Lucie’s proxy in a battle to the death. Facing off with Madame Defarge in the Manettes’s deserted Parisian house, Miss Pross declares:
“I am a Briton, […] I am desperate. I don’t care an English Twopence for myself. I know that the longer I keep you here, the greater hope there is for my Ladybird. I’ll not leave a handful of that dark hair upon your head, if you lay a finger on me!” (3.14.84)
Of course, she actually manages to whomp Madame Defarge pretty soundly. By the end of their struggle, Miss Pross is deaf and Madame Defarge is dead.
The Spinster Issue
We’ve got to wonder, however, why exactly the novel seems to appreciate Miss Pross so much. OK, we recognize why she’s so lovable. We even see why such selfless devotion can be beneficial in times of conflict. But why is it OK for a single woman to devote her life to another family’s well-being?
Perhaps her love for Lucie really is stronger than any other bond in Miss Pross’s life. That’s all well and good. The novel seems to suggest, however, that the best thing an unmarried woman can do is attach herself to the coattails of a young wife. In other words, the novel values Miss Pross’s devotion not because she cares for Lucie, but also because she’s helping to ensure the future of the traditional family. It’s okay if Miss Pross suffers injuries in her battle to defend the Manettes because she never has to worry about raising their children. We love Miss Pross—but we’re slightly worried that her character is just a little bit too expendable

Role and Character Analysis ofTHE MARQUIS ST. EVRÉMONDE in A Tale of Two Cities


He was a man of about sixty, handsomely dressed, haughty in manner, and with a face like a fine mask. A face of a transparent paleness; every feature in it clearly defined; one set expression on it. The nose, beautifully formed otherwise, was very slightly pinched at the top of each nostril. In those two compressions, or dints, the only little change that the face ever showed, resided. They persisted in changing colour sometimes, and they would be occasionally dilated and contracted by something like a faint pulsation; then, they gave a look of treachery, and cruelty, to the whole countenance. (2.7.15)
It’s a cold description: the Marquis’s very nose seems to hint at his absolute inhumanity. Everything about the Marquis, in fact, seems positively inhuman. Even his carriage is driven “with a wild rattle and clatter, and an inhuman abandonment of consideration not easy to be understood in these days” (2.7.17). The Marquis St. Evrémonde, we learn, is not a man to be pitied.
Pity may be the last thing that readers are inclined to give to this character. After all, he played a key role in locking Doctor Manette up for life. Charles suspects that he’s been trying to lock his own nephew (that would be Charles) up as well. His chateau exploits the poor to the point of breaking, and he shows no sympathy at all for the fates of those struggling to provide his estate with more money. He even runs over small children in the street. All in all, he’s a thoroughly detestable guy.
He’s also the only true version of the French aristocracy we see in the novel. Because his character has been depicted as so monstrous, it’s understandable that people would want to murder him in his sleep. In fact, people do murder him in his sleep.
Here’s the catch, though: if he stands in for all French aristocrats, aren’t all French aristocrats equally monstrous? Wouldn’t Madame Defarge be right when she says that she wants to see “all the race” exterminated? It becomes pretty hard to critique violence when the victims of that violence seem to deserve it. In other words, the flatness of the Marquis’s character actually gives senseless violence a sort of rationale: the aristocrats are evil. End of story. But is this really the take-away message the novel is trying to send?

Role and Character Analysis ofMr. Stryver in A Tale of Two Cities

Mr. Stryver – An ambitious lawyer, Stryver dreams of climbing the social ladder. Unlike his associate, Sydney Carton, Stryver is bombastic, proud, and foolish.

Role and Character Analysis ofRoger Cly in A Tale of Two Cities

Roger Cly – Like John Barsad, Roger Cly is a British spy who swears that patriotism alone inspires all of his actions. Cly feigns honesty but in fact constantly participates in conniving schemes.

Role and Character Analysis ofGabelle in A Tale of Two Cities

Gabelle – The man charged with keeping up the Evrémonde estate after the Marquis’ death, Gabelle is imprisoned by the revolutionaries. News of his internment prompts Darnay to travel to France to save him.

Analysis of all THEMES of A TALE OF TWO CITIES

Analysis of the theme of FAMILY in
a tale of two cities

Analysis of the theme of Resurrection in a tale of two cities


Analysis of the theme of
a tale of two cities

Analysis of the theme of WARFARE in a tale of two cities

Analysis of the theme of Fate and History a tale of two cities

Analysis of the theme of Sacrifice in a tale of two cities

Analysis of the theme of DOUBLES in a tale of two cities

Analysis of the theme of Social Injustice in a tale of two cities

Analysis of the theme of Class Struggle in a tale of two cities

Analysis of the theme of JUSTICE AND JUDGMENT in a tale of two cities

Analysis of the theme of LIFE, CONSCIOUSNESS, AND EXISTENCE in a tale of two cities

Analysis of the theme of FAMILY in
a tale of two cities


This is a novel about war. But it’s also a novel about devotion. How much will you sacrifice to ensure that your family survives? Can you shoulder the blame for the actions of the past? Even if you can, should you?
These questions and others like them become central to the workings of A Tale of Two Cities . Various types of family ties weave through this novel, offering multiple opportunities to compare the ways that families deal with difficult situations. Because the aristocracy in France passed on power through inherited titles and lands, entire families became the targets of the revolutionary uprisings that sparked the new regime.
Of course, this quickly becomes a novel about how families fall apart, as well. But that’s another story.

Analysis of the theme of Resurrection in a tale of two cities


Resurrection is the overriding theme of this novel, manifest both literally and figuratively. Book I, named “Recalled to Life,” concerns the rediscovery of Doctor Manette, who has been jailed in the Bastille for eighteen years. Code for the secret mission to rescue him from Paris is the simple phrase “recalled to life,” which starts Mr. Lorry thinking about the fact that the prisoner has been out of society long enough to have been considered dead. This theme is treated more humorously through
Jerry Cruncher’s profession as a “Resurrection-Man.” Although his trade of digging up dead bodies and selling their parts seems gruesome, it provides him with the crucial knowledge that a spy named Roger Cly has been literally resurrected–in that he was never buried at all.
The most important “resurrections” in the novel are those of Charles Darnay. First, Sydney Carton ‘s resemblance to him saves him from being convicted and executed in England, and then, the same resemblance allows the latter to switch places with him in the Conciergerie. These resurrections are surrounded with heavily religious language that compare Carton’s sacrifice of his own life for others’ sins to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.


Throughout the novel, Dickens approaches his historical subject with some ambivalence. While he supports the revolutionary cause, he often points to the evil of the revolutionaries themselves. Dickens deeply sympathizes with the plight of the French peasantry and emphasizes their need for liberation. The several chapters that deal with the Marquis Evrémonde successfully paint a picture of a vicious aristocracy that shamelessly exploits and oppresses the nation’s poor. Although Dickens condemns this oppression, however, he also condemns the peasants’ strategies in overcoming it. For in fighting cruelty with cruelty, the peasants effect no true revolution; rather, they only perpetuate the violence that they themselves have suffered. Dickens makes his stance clear in his suspicious and cautionary depictions of the mobs. The scenes in which the people sharpen their weapons at the grindstone and dance the grisly Carmagnole come across as deeply macabre. Dickens’s most concise and relevant view of revolution comes in the final chapter, in which he notes the slippery slope down from the oppressed to the oppressor: “Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.” Though Dickens sees the French Revolution as a great symbol of transformation and resurrection, he emphasizes that its violent means were ultimately antithetical to its end.

Analysis of the theme of
a tale of two cities

Class Struggle
This theme is inevitable in a novel concerning the French Revolution. Dickens chooses a side, ultimately showing opposition to the Revolution due to the ruthless and uncontrolled force of its aroused mobs. Even so, the story of the Marquis’s rape of the peasant along with other details of aristocratic mistreatment of the lower classes provide some justification for the goals of the French mob. In the end, he portrays the mob as having moved beyond the pale to a degree beyond what happened in England; the French mob acts with such force that it resembles a natural element like fire or water.

Analysis of the theme of WARFARE in a tale of two cities


The French Revolution. The storming of the Bastille. The formation of the new Republic.
Well, yes. But they’re also all important topics that work their way to the center of A Tale of Two Cities . As the poor and downtrodden of France take to the streets, they spark a bloody and violent revolution. Blood runs through the streets of Paris, entire families hang in the balance of new (and often unjust) laws, and no one can be sure of their future in the first years of the Republic. Dickens’s novel explores the complicated relationship that emerges between the political and the social consequences of revolution.

Analysis of the theme of Fate and History a tale of two cities

Fate and History

Madame Defarge with her
knitting and Lucie Manette weaving her “golden thread” both resemble the Fates, goddesses from Greek mythology who literally controlled the “threads” of human lives. As the presence of these two Fate figures suggests, A Tale of Two Cities is deeply concerned with human destiny. In particular, the novel explores how the fates of individuals are shaped by their personal histories and the broader forces of political history. For instance, both Charles and Dr. Manette try to shape and change history. Charles seeks to escape from his family’s cruel aristocratic history and make his own way in London, but is inevitably drawn “like a magnet” back to France where he must face his family’s past. Later in the novel, Dr. Manette seeks to use his influence within the Revolution to try to save Charles’s life from the revolutionaries, but Dr. Manette’s own forgotten past resurfaces in the form of an old letter that dooms Charles. Through these failures of characters to change the flow of history or to escape their own pasts, A Tale of Two Cities suggests that the force of history can be broken not by earthly appeals to justice or political influence, but only through Christian self-sacrifice, such as Carton’s self-sacrifice that saves Charles at the end of the novel.

Analysis of the theme of Sacrifice in a tale of two cities


A Tale of Two Cities is full of examples of sacrifice, on both a personal and national level. Dr. Manette sacrifices his freedom in order to preserve his integrity. Charles sacrifices his family wealth and heritage in order to live a life free of guilt for his family’s awful behavior. The French people are willing to sacrifice their own lives to free themselves from tyranny. In each case, Dickens suggests that, while painful in the short term, sacrifice leads to future strength and happiness. Dr. Manette is reunited with his daughter and gains a position of power in the French Revolution because of his earlier incarceration in the Bastille. Charles wins the love of Lucie. And France, Dickens suggests at the end of the novel, will emerge from its terrible and bloody revolution to a future of peace and prosperity.
Yet none of these sacrifices can match the most important sacrifice in the novel—Sydney Carton’s decision to sacrifice his life in order to save the lives of Lucie, Charles, and their family. The other characters’ actions fit into the secular definition of “sacrifice,” in which a person gives something up for noble reasons. Carton’s sacrifice fits the Christian definition of the word. In Christianity, God sacrifices his son Jesus in order to redeem mankind from sin. Carton’s sacrifice breaks the grip of fate and history that holds Charles, Lucie, Dr. Manette, and even, as the novel suggests, the revolutionaries.

Analysis of the theme of DOUBLES in a tale of two cities

The novel’s opening words (“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. . . .”) immediately establish the centrality of doubles to the narrative. The story’s action divides itself between two locales, the two cities of the title. Dickens positions various characters as doubles as well, thus heightening the various themes within the novel. The two most important females in the text function as diametrically opposed doubles: Lucie is as loving and nurturing as Madame Defarge is hateful and bloodthirsty. Dickens then uses this opposition to make judgments and thematic assertions. Thus, for example, while Lucie’s love initiates her father’s spiritual transformation and renewal, proving the possibility of resurrection, Madame Defarge’s vengefulness only propagates an infinite cycle of oppression, showing violence to be self-perpetuating.
Dickens’s doubling technique functions not only to draw oppositions, but to reveal hidden parallels. Carton, for example, initially seems a foil to Darnay; Darnay as a figure reminds him of what he could have been but has failed to become. By the end of the novel, however, Carton transforms himself from a good-for-nothing to a hero whose goodness equals or even surpasses that of the honorable Darnay. While the two men’s physical resemblance initially serves only to underscore Carton’s moral inferiority to Darnay, it ultimately enables Carton’s supremely self-elevating deed, allowing him to disguise himself as the condemned Darnay and die in his place. As Carton goes to the guillotine in his double’s stead, he raises himself up to, or above, Darnay’s virtuous status.

Analysis of the theme of LOYALTY
a tale of two cities


War seems to test the limits of all sorts of ties. Your loyalties to family, friends, and even the institutions you believe in suddenly come into question. Just how much are you willing to sacrifice for the good of the nation? Does the nation come before your family? Before your own life?
In A Tale of Two Cities , Dickens forces his characters into situations that demand answers to exactly these questions. As we see, there aren’t ever any simple answers—and during a massive social uproar there’s rarely a time when anyone emerges unharmed. Characters learn how to honor the promises and the relationships that matter to them, even when those promises seem impossible to uphold.

Analysis of the theme of Social Injustice in a tale of two cities

Social Injustice
This theme is related to the theme of class struggle, because those who feel the negative effects of injustice begin to struggle against it. Dickens maintains a complex perspective on the French Revolution because although he did not particularly sympathize with the gruesome and often irrational results, he certainly sympathized with the unrest of the lower orders of society. Dickens vividly paints the aristocratic maltreatment of the lower classes, such as when Monseigneur only briefly stops to toss a coin toward the father of a child whom he has just run over. Because the situation in France was so dire, Dickens portrays the plight of the working class in England as rather difficult, though slightly less difficult than in other works such as Hard Times or Oliver Twist, which also emphasize social injustice.

Analysis of the theme of Imprisonment a tale of two cities


In the novel, the Bastille symbolizes the nobility’s abuse of power, exemplified by the unjust imprisonment of Dr. Manette by Marquis St. Evrémonde. Yet the Bastille is not the only prison in A Tale of Two Cities . The revolutionaries also unjustly imprison Charles in La Force prison. Through this parallel, Dickens suggests that the French revolutionaries come to abuse their power just as much as the nobility did.
The theme of imprisonment also links to the theme of history and fate. For instance, when Charles is drawn back to Paris because of his own past actions, each checkpoint he passes seems to him like a prison door shutting behind him

Analysis of the theme of Class Struggle in a tale of two cities

Class Struggle
This theme is inevitable in a novel concerning the French Revolution. Dickens chooses a side, ultimately showing opposition to the Revolution due to the ruthless and uncontrolled force of its aroused mobs. Even so, the story of the Marquis’s rape of the peasant along with other details of aristocratic mistreatment of the lower classes provide some justification for the goals of the French mob. In the end, he portrays the mob as having moved beyond the pale to a degree beyond what happened in England; the French mob acts with such force that it resembles a natural element like fire or water.

Analysis of the theme of JUSTICE AND JUDGMENT in a tale of two cities


Dickens exploits the hypocrisies and idiosyncrasies of the justice system in
A Tale of Two Cities . As French citizens take to the streets, demanding justice for themselves and their families, they also construct a justice system that becomes anything but fair and impartial.
To keep us from blaming the French too much, however, Dickens also gives us a good look at the justice system in England. Complete with magic mirrors and smoke-and-dagger tricks, the English can’t brag about their courts, either. So how does justice get rendered? That is one of the questions this novel explores.

Analysis of the theme of LIFE, CONSCIOUSNESS, AND EXISTENCE in a tale of two cities


Dickens the storyteller is closely linked to Dickens the philosopher. Sure, A Tale of Two Cities is a rollicking good story. More than that, though, it’s also a meditation on some of the most pressing existential questions that trouble humankind.
Do we really know anything at all about the people around us—even the people we love? Can a single life make a difference in a world filled with hatred, rage, and violence? Times of strife make these questions all the more pressing to answer, but, as Dickens reminds us, that doesn’t mean that the answers are easy to find.

The Use of Symbols in ‘A Tale of Two Cities


Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

THE BROKEN WINE CASK as a symbol in A Tale of Two Cities

With his depiction of a broken wine cask outside Defarge’s wine shop, and with his portrayal of the passing peasants’ scrambles to lap up the spilling wine, Dickens creates a symbol for the desperate quality of the people’s hunger. This hunger is both the literal hunger for food—the French peasants were starving in their poverty—and the metaphorical hunger for political freedoms. On the surface, the scene shows the peasants in their desperation to satiate the first of these hungers. But it also evokes the violent measures that the peasants take in striving to satisfy their more metaphorical cravings. For instance, the narrative directly associates the wine with blood, noting that some of the peasants have acquired “a tigerish smear about the mouth” and portraying a drunken figure scrawling the word “blood” on the wall with a wine-dipped finger. Indeed, the blood of aristocrats later spills at the hands of a mob in these same streets.
Throughout the novel, Dickens sharply criticizes this mob mentality, which he condemns for perpetrating the very cruelty and oppression from which the revolutionaries hope to free themselves. The scene surrounding the wine cask is the novel’s first tableau of the mob in action. The mindless frenzy with which these peasants scoop up the fallen liquid prefigures the scene at the grindstone, where the revolutionaries sharpen their weapons (Book the Third, Chapter 2), as well as the dancing of the macabre Carmagnole (Book the Third, Chapter 5).

MADAME DEFARGE’S KNITTING as a symbol in A Tale of Two Cities

Even on a literal level, Madame Defarge’s knitting constitutes a whole network of symbols. Into her needlework she stitches a registry, or list of names, of all those condemned to die in the name of a new republic. But on a metaphoric level, the knitting constitutes a symbol in itself, representing the stealthy, cold-blooded vengefulness of the revolutionaries. As Madame Defarge sits quietly knitting, she appears harmless and quaint. In fact, however, she sentences her victims to death. Similarly, the French peasants may appear simple and humble figures, but they eventually rise up to massacre their oppressors.
Dickens’s knitting imagery also emphasizes an association between vengefulness and fate, which, in Greek mythology, is traditionally linked to knitting or weaving. The Fates, three sisters who control human life, busy themselves with the tasks of weavers or seamstresses: one sister spins the web of life, another measures it, and the last cuts it. Madame Defarge’s knitting thus becomes a symbol of her victims’ fate—death at the hands of a wrathful peasantry.

THE MARQUIS as a symbol in A Tale of Two Cities

The Marquis Evrémonde is less a believable character than an archetype of an evil and corrupt social order. He is completely indifferent to the lives of the peasants whom he exploits, as evidenced by his lack of sympathy for the father of the child whom his carriage tramples to death. As such, the Marquis stands as a symbol of the ruthless aristocratic cruelty that the French Revolution seeks to overcome

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